TCS Daily

The End of a Terrorist

By Ariel Cohen - November 10, 2004 12:00 AM

As Yasir Arafat lies dying in a French hospital, it is clear that after having brought disaster to the people he claimed to represent, he is leaving them in the lurch. To reach real peace, Palestinians will need to overcome Arafat's legacy. The Fatah ("Conquest") chief leaves behind him a legacy of violence against innocent civilians, corruption, irredentism, manipulation of religion, brainwashing, and child abuse for political purposes.

While the UN, Western Europe, and the Israeli left treated him with kid gloves, their inability to confront the evil Arafat embodies a sad moral lesson and an exercise in human hypocrisy.

Arafat was born in Cairo in 1929, when "Palestinian" still meant a Jew who lived in what later became Israel. From his teen years he was connected to the Muslim Brotherhood in Gaza, a radical Islamist movement with links to the Wahhabi Islam of Saudi Arabia, which was later to spawn Egyptian Islamic Jihad, a constituent part of Al Qaeda.

He came of age in the era of pan-Arab nationalism, and became a tool of Nasserist foreign policy, which targeted Israel. The Palestinian cause he symbolized for decades was a construct by Arab and Soviet strategic planners designed to wipe Israel off the map. After all, "Palestinian" Sunni Arabs do not differ from their brothers in Syria, Lebanon and Jordan.

A leader of Fatah since 1959, and with a lot of Egyptian and Soviet support, Arafat cobbled together the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) in 1968. Eventually, he also received a lot of Saudi funding.

Arafat's terrorists pioneered attacks on "soft" civilian targets, including multiple hijackings of airplanes; attacks on airports, such as Lod in Israel and Fiumincino in Rome, the murder of schoolchildren; and attacks on hotels and cruise ships. In 1972, Arafat's Black September murdered 11 Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics. In 1973, Palestinian terrorists took over the Saudi Embassy in Sudan, killing US Ambassador Cleo Noel and others. James J. Welsh, a US National Security Agency analyst from 1969 to 1974, has charged Arafat with complicity in these murders.

In 1974, PLO terrorists took over a school in the Northern Israeli town of Ma'alot, where they threw school children out of windows. All told 26 people, including 21 pupils were murdered. This did not prevent Arafat from subsequently addressing the UN General Assembly while holstering a gun. That same year, the Palestinian National Council adopted the "phased plan" which calls for the establishment of a Palestinian state on any territory evacuated by Israel as a base of operations for the ultimate destruction of the Jewish state.

In 1985, the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro was hijacked by terrorists who reported to Arafat. A wheelchair bound elderly American, Leon Klinghoffer, was shot and thrown overboard with his wheelchair.

The Israeli left, led by Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Rabin naively believed that Arafat, given a state, would behave responsibly. They brought him out of Tunisian exile and entrusted him with Gaza and parts of the West Bank. The Oslo accords, signed in 1993 on the White House lawn, and feted around the world, was the largest misinformation campaign operation pulled off by Arafat.

At the peak of the "Oslo process," in 1996, Arafat addressed an Arab audience in Stockholm, saying, "We plan to eliminate the State of Israel and establish a purely Palestinian state. We will make life unbearable for Jews by psychological warfare and population explosion... We Palestinians will take over everything, including Jerusalem."

Addressing a Bethlehem rally the same year, Arafat announced, "We have one word -- jihad, jihad, jihad. Whoever does not like it, can drink Dead Sea water..." When referring to the Oslo accords, he often compared himself to the Prophet Mohammad and Salah a- Din, a great Muslim military leader who defeated the Crusaders. Arafat often invoked the ten-year peace treaty with the tribe of Koreish, which Mohammad broke after two years, massacring the Koreish tribe. Arafat also often referenced Salah a-Din breaking a truce with the crusaders and defeating them. He also made Khaibar -- a Jewish tribe in the Arabian Peninsula annihilated by Mohammad -- into his own battle-cry. The West and the Israeli left completely ignored his hate speech.

Rejecting the generous proposals put forward by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and President Bill Clinton to for a Palestinian state in Gaza and the West Bank in 2000, Arafat once again chose war over peace. As the late dovish Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban used to say, he never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity.

Arafat's terror war, known as the Al Aqsa Intifada after a Jerusalem mosque to which Muslims have full access, but which he nevertheless declared he would "liberate", has left over 1,000 Israelis and 3,600 Palestinians dead so far. While the majority of Palestinians who were killed were terrorists, the majority of Israelis were civilians. Moreover, Arafat's terror war destroyed the Palestinian economy, driving families to despair -- and youngsters into the hands of terrorist recruiters.

As always, Arafat sought plausible deniability by renaming some of his terror outfits, such as Tanzim and Al Aqsa Martyr's Brigades, while enjoying the acceptance and support from the Arab world and the European Union. He also allowed Hamas and Islamic Jihad a free run.

Arafat created a brainwashing machine on a scale unseen since the Joseph Goebbels' Propagandaministerium of the Third Reich. Children as young as two are paraded with suicide belts on. Youth camps for terrorists proliferate. The school system has turned into a jihad factory, and even the US-sponsored Palestinian version of Sesame Street preaches the murder of Jews and Israelis.

While terrorist propaganda blurts nonsense about the 72 virgins ("houries") young men will enjoy after blowing themselves up on buses, in markets, restaurants and movie theaters, often what it really all comes down to is cold hard cash. Until his deposition, Saddam Hussein used to distribute up to $22,000 to each family of a suicide murderer, while the Saudi Arabian state-run TV has raised hundreds of millions of dollars for Hamas and other terror groups in telethons presided over by members of the royal family. Arafat always encouraged such "charity" -- and took a cut.

As his rule is ending, Palestinians had best reassess and reject his legacy. Instead of the cult of death, it is time to promote the culture of peace. It is time to reject the destructive agendas of the PLO's Syrian, Iranian and Saudi sponsors. Arafat, like Fidel Castro and Kim Jong Il, belongs to another era, that of totalitarianism and hatred. Only when Palestinians undergo this catharsis, will there be peace with their Israeli neighbors.

Ariel Cohen, Ph.D., is a Research Fellow at The Heritage Foundation.


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